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Photo Booth

I have been shooting nightlife for the Boston Globe for well over a year now.  Over that time we have amassed a pretty good library of venues and reoccurring events where people can go to get a sense of a scene or check out who was at the club the night before.   A selection of my favorite images can be found here.

My technique when shooting in dark and dynamic situations like nightclubs is constantly evolving, as is our decisions about what we cover and how we cover it.   Having shot nearly every club in Boston and Cambridge, we are now experimenting with the concept of reimagining a traditional photo booth as a journalistic tool.

Photo booths are unique in their ability to strip away any style or technique that a photographer brings into a situation. In the booth, the sitter is both the subject of the photo as well as the photographer.  It can be an intimate experience and one that reveals something unique about the subject – something that is ordinarily inaccessible with another person standing behind the camera.

Last weekend Boston hosted a 4-day tattoo convention and so we showed up, photo booth in tow, to see what stories tattoo enthusiasts could give us, given a standard set of questions and a few minutes inside the privacy of the booth.

This is an ongoing experiment so, stay tuned.  Inspired by this old time booth photo:


we’re taking the booth to a dog fashion show and owner/dog look alike contest next….

Name: Tony Serino
Age: 68
From: Revere, Mass.
Tattoo in photo: Tattoos at center of Serino’s chest are Japanese characters that stands for ‘Tattoos for Life’.  Serino won the competition for best overall tattoos in the men’s category.
What was your first tattoo?  Serino’s first tattoo was a tattoo of two shaking hands, which he got on his wrist.  Serino’s best friend who was killed in Vietnam had the same tattoo.
Did it hurt? “It doesn’t hurt at all.  I got addicted.  After five or six hours of work my artist (Al Benedetti) often asks me ‘Can I take a break now?’”
How many tattoos do you have?  Full body, ankles to neck, finished two months ago.  “I’m done.”
Any regrets? “No regrets.  I’d do it all over again.”

Name: Ken Matsumoto
Age: 33
From: Providence, Rhode Island
Tattoo in photo: St. Michael, patron saint of police officers.
What was your first tattoo? Matsumoto, who is a police officer, got the shield and rose emblem from the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund on his shoulder at the age of 28 to honor police officers that have died in the line of duty.
Did it hurt? “It didn’t hurt at all”
How many tattoos do you have? Three
Any regrets? No Regrets.

Name: Ivan Fontana (also pictured is Gillian Maffeo)
Age: 27 (Fontana)
From: Legnano, Italy (Fontana)
Tattoo in photo: A swallow, which is a traditional tattoo for sailors.  Fontana will be tattooing the saying “Live and Let Live” in Italian on Maffeo’s side by the end of the convention.
What was your first tattoo? At 16, Fontana got a tattoo of a Chinese character for peace.  In Italy you can get a tattoo at 16 with parental permission, which Fontana said his parents gave begrudgingly.  Now Fontana is a tattoo artist and both of his parents have tattoos.  Fontana even let is mother tattoo the word “Mamma” on his thigh, which means ‘mom’ in Italian.
How many tattoos do you have? “I don’t know.”
Any regrets? “There are some I wish I could do bigger, but no regrets.”

Name: Jairo Acevedo and his daughter Ana-Nevaeh Acevedo
Age: 24 and 3
From: East Boston
What was your first tattoo? Acevedo got a tattoo with his mom’s name at the age of 14 during a friend’s birthday party with a homemade tattoo kit.  The kit consisted of a guitar string for a needle, which was sharpened on a cinderblock when it became dull.  “My mom snapped,” Acevedo said. “What do you think? I’m going to forget my name?” she asked.
Did it hurt? On a scale of 1 to 10, Acevedo said his first hurt like a 9.  The rest were just uncomfortable.
How many tattoos do you have? 17
Any regrets? Acevedo says he regrets getting ‘Brown Pride” written on his forearms.  “The lettering is terrible.  The artist was completely bombed, but so was I.”

Name: Starr Hallett and Dominic Wilson
Age: 32 and 28
From: Jamaica Plain
Tattoo in photo: laces of a corset
What was your first tattoo? At 17 years old, Hallett got a tattoo of a lizard.   Hallett said there was no significance. “I was on the way class and someone’s brother who was a tattoo artist came to the dorm at Mt. Ida.  I had never thought about getting a tattoo before.”
Did it hurt? On a scale of 1 to 10, Hallett said the tattoo on her back was a 9 for pain.  “All the others were pretty smooth feeling.”Any regrets?  Hallett says she has regrets.  “My tramp stamp is my son’s name.  I wish I had seen how his personality would develop before I got it.  It doesn’t represent him.”

Name: Gabe Schmand
Age: 27
From: Bangor, Maine
Tattoo in photo: Roman numerals intended to represent Schmand’s birthday 1 – 9 – 82 but actually reads 1 – 11 – 72.  “I didn’t know my roman numerals.” Schmand explains.  “I could have gotten it covered up but it makes a good story.  It is hilarious.”
Did it hurt? Schmand says his collarbone and elbow were terrible.  On a scale of 1 to 10 they were 9’s.  “Everything else was pretty good,” Schmand says.
Any regrets? No regrets.

Name: Henry Bachteler
Age: 55
From: Groton, Mass.
Tattoo in Photo: Bachteler got a new tattoo at the convention of the word ‘Freedom’.  “My soon-to-be ex tells me she’s ready to move out so I’m psyched.  It means freedom from being tied down that way, freedom to do it differently.”
What was your first tattoo? Bachteler got his first tattoo at the age of 43.  It is the symbol of Ordo Templi Orientis, “a ceremonial, magical group” he used to belong to.
Did it hurt? On a scale from 1 to 10 Bachteler said it hurt like a 5.  “It’s just a little thing.”
How many tattoos do you have? 2
Any regrets? Bachteler says his first tattoo is a bit of a regret because he’s no longer part of the organization.  “Some day I’ll have it re-made,” Bachteler said.

Name: John Durante
Age: 35
From: Seattle, Washington
In photo: The scars on Durante’s cheeks are from a body scarification ritual performed by Durante’s friends on top of a pyramid in Mexico where the Aztecs performed human sacrifice.  Durante said he chose the location because he had a dream about it.  He and his friends were arrested after the event.
Did it hurt? “I’ve had tattoos that were way worse,” Durante said about the facial scarring.
Any regrets? No regrets.

Name: Hayley Nicosia
Age: 18
From: Braintree, Mass.
Tattoo in photo: Nicosia came to the tattoo convention and left with the tattoo on her lower back of two roses and a fairy which she got in memory of her grandfather and best friend who both passed away.
Did it hurt? On a scale of 1 to 10 Nicosia gave it an 8.  “I can’t wait to get another one.  It felt good,” Nicosia said.
How many tattoos do you have? 1
Any regrets? No regrets.

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